Chapter 2

The next morning, the air was thick with tension. I felt like a bug caught in a sticky web, not seeing but strongly sensing the presence of a hungry spider behind me, planning its attack.

My mother woke up in a mood that reminded me of a cartoon character with a squiggly scowl across its face, trailing smoke and red flames behind its head. In a way, I’m always glad when I’m given obvious warnings like this because then the attacks don’t come as such a surprise. This lets me examine the situation and adjust my mood, and when necessary, be as ultra-obedient and inoffensive as possible. Sometimes I need to grovel because the way I act can sometimes break the tension and allow me to escape a beating–at least until the next wave arrives. At other times, I wonder how I possibly misread the situation because my grovelling just seems to piss her off even more.

As I sat at the kitchen table, I tried to make myself as invisible as possible, keeping my head low and making sure I didn’t scrape my spoon against the side of the cereal bowl, spill any drops of milk, chew too loudly, or move, just in case my chair creaked. The littlest thing could set her off. Each time she stomped past me, I felt the back of my hair lifting from the breeze. I concentrated on controlling my breathing so I didn’t sweat. She doesn’t like sweat. She says it’s filthy.

I heard her move behind me again, but this time she stopped. I could feel her looming behind me like a massive Black Widow. I closed my eyes and tensed my body for what was about to come. For some reason, waiting for something bad to happen was always worse than the pain of the actual beating.

Suddenly a smack upside my head knocked me off my chair and sent me sliding across the floor. I scrambled to a sitting position, scooting along the floor so my back was flat against the wall. I can’t take kicks in the back. They hurt too much and take way too long to heal.

I could feel my right ear growing hot and starting to throb.

I knew she hated when I looked at her during times like this, so I kept my eyes low, but held her in the corner of my sight so I didn’t get any wallops that I wasn’t prepared for.

She told me to look at her, but I couldn’t. I wouldn’t.

“What did I tell you, you little whore?! LOOK AT ME!”

Slowly I raised my eyes to meet hers. When she moved in closer to me, I positioned my knees against my chest and wrapped my arms around them, making myself as small as possible.

“Tell me,” she snarled, venom dripping from her fangs, “Why does your pillow smell like smoke?” She spat out the word “smoke” like it was a rancid piece of chicken.

My heart sank at that boner move, because I’d had the sense to put all of last night’s clothes into a plastic bag and hide them in my secret spot underneath the floorboards in my closet until I could sneak them into the wash. I didn’t know what to say, but it didn’t matter anymore.

I started to blurt out “I was just…” but before I could finish, her foot swung out and smacked me in the jaw. A splatter of blood hit the kitchen cupboards just before I crashed against them. Before I could react, she kicked me hard in the stomach, making me double over in pain.

“Don’t even try to explain this one! Everything that comes out of that fool mouth of yours is a lie anyway. Get up, you lying little bitch!”

I couldn’t get up. I tried, but I couldn’t move. In a desperate plea for her to stop, I reached my arm up towards her, crying and begging for some sort of mercy. She took a step towards me and looked down at me with an expression I couldn’t read. I held her in my gaze with my arm raised, trying to find that one tiny element of caring that I knew she possessed but barely ever showed. Suddenly, she stomped her foot onto my outstretched arm. As it hit the floor, this god-awful crack echoed throughout the kitchen. I felt a searing burn shoot up my arm from my shoulder to my fingertips.

I screamed.

“Get up!” she ordered, hovering above me. But I couldn’t do anything except lay there on the floor, crying in pain.

She nudged me with her foot. “I said – get UP!”

Even through the mind-numbing pain, one thought still managed to make its way to my brain, which was how someone could just keep being that horrible after reducing another person to such a pitiful state. I figured her short supply of empathy had finally dried up.

I bit my tongue in a desperate attempt to stop myself from wailing. But whimpers still managed to escape from my clenched teeth. My breath pounded heavily from my nostrils like a bull, but I couldn’t control the tears flowing down my face, puddling on the floor by my head, wetting my hair.

Slipping her hands into the pockets of her sweater, she took a step back, surveyed the damaged heap in front of her that was her daughter, and then casually walked out of the kitchen, leaving me lying there on the floor.

I let myself weep quietly for a long time afterward, occasionally trying to move parts of my body so I could at least get up to a seated position. For some reason, the pain in my arm just kind of disappeared. This let me pull myself onto my knees and rest my back against the kitchen cupboards. With my good arm, I opened the cupboard door and ungracefully used it as an uncooperative crutch to stand up, where I wobbled unsteadily on my feet.

Shuffling to the stairs, I carefully made my way up to my bedroom, one slow step at a time. I don’t actually remember making it to my room, but somehow I did it. Before sitting down on my bed, I shoved my garbage can over to my bed with the side of my foot, in case I needed it later. The pain in my arm had come back with a vengeance and was now so evil I thought I was going to barf.

Gingerly, I lowered myself onto the bed, which was a challenge because my stomach was still feeling pretty tender from the kick. But this, along with my other wounds seemed like nothing compared to my arm. The pain had become so glaring that I could only sit there weeping angrily through clenched teeth, trying to make it go away.

With my good arm, I fumbled around in the drawer of my bedside table for the bottle of baby aspirin I stashed there for times like this. My mother wouldn’t let me have anything stronger, claiming “that other stuff is too potent for you. Your body’s too small to handle it.” Yet she didn’t seem to think the same thing about the violence she regularly heaped on it. My fury burned when I couldn’t get the stupid security cap off with my one good hand. Frustrated, I dropped the plastic bottle onto the floor and stomped on it until it busted open, the same way my mother had done with my arm. Lowering myself down onto the ground beside my bed to grab the pills, I popped four or five into my mouth, one after the other.

I stayed slumped against the side of my bed for the rest of the day, watching the light of the sun shape-shift on the walls of my bedroom, slowly wrapping me in the awkward, purple light of dusk. Each time I moved my arm, pain shot arrows through me, making me eat another one of the pink baby aspirins from the floor. The only thing this seemed to do was make me even more nauseous. As I dropped another pill into my mouth, I felt the flood of stomach acid grab the insides of my cheeks and I knew I was going to throw up. Grabbing my beige plastic garbage can with the ugly gold flowers on it, I puked until there was nothing left inside me. As I waited for my guts to settle down, I stayed on the floor, wiping my mouth with the back of my sleeve.

Slowly my bedroom door opened and my mother stood there before me, light streaming in from behind her like in that Who concert I saw on TV where Roger Daltrey is pretending to walk but he’s not going anywhere. Realizing I had nothing left in me to fight back with caused a muffled yelp to escape, and then tears started pouring out again like crazy. I knew that if she came back to finish her attack, this would be my last day on earth. Any more beatings would kill me for sure. The thought caused my tears to suddenly dry up, which was weirdly comforting because I wasn’t sure I wanted to go on. Nobody would miss me anyway. Well, maybe my uncle Benjie would, but I think he figured he’d be at my funeral before I was eighteen anyway.

My mother walked across the room in her sensible, pink slippers. The slip-proof rubber pads on them squeaked against the wooden floorboards and then stopped when she stood in front of me.

“What are you doing down there?” she asked. I could tell by the tone of her voice that she’d calmed down. “Clean yourself up and come to the kitchen. Dinner’s ready.”

“I c-can’t,” I managed to squeak out. “It hurts too much.”

“What hurts?”

I tried not to look at her incredulously. “My arm,” I whimpered, glancing down at the gross, twisted shape hanging by my side.

“Don’t be such a sissy,” she spat. Bending down, she slid her hands under my armpits and hoisted me to a standing position. As she was doing so, my broken arm knocked against the side of my night stand and I screamed in pain. Shocked, she let me go. I fell onto my bed and began to wail again.

“What the hell is wrong with you?” she snapped. I couldn’t answer. The pain in my arm had roared to a flame again. Leaning over the garbage can, I began to gag, but there wasn’t anything left inside me anymore.

As I sat there gasping and weeping, trying to adjust my arm to a position where it didn’t hurt so much, she just stood there in front of me like a confused statue. Even though I wasn’t looking at her, I could feel her helplessness closing in. She leaned over and switched on my bedside lamp.

“I’ll call Benjamin.”

I felt a wash of relief at her words.

Although it felt like way longer, about an hour later my uncle Benjie finally padded softly into my bedroom, holding my running shoes in his hand. He set them down in front of my feet before sitting on the bed beside me.

“Hey, little monkey,” he cooed with a sad smile, “Don’t you worry. Uncle Benjie’s here. Everything’s going to be okay now.” Gently, he wiped away my tears with his big, sandpaper hands, and kissed me on the forehead.

“Let’s take a look at that arm.” As he leaned over me to examine my arm, he scowled. “Oh Cathykins, why does she have to do this to you?”

I sat there silently, wondering the same thing myself.

His face brightened a smidgen and then he patted me gently on the knee. “Come on. Let’s get you to the hospital.”

With a grunt and a bunch of effort, he crouched down in front of me and slipped my feet into my running shoes. I smiled as his thick, sausage-like fingers fumbled with the laces. Even though he managed to tie my shoes, I knew they’d come undone the minute I took a step. They always did whenever he tied them, but I didn’t care. My body was filled with the warmth and comfort that my uncle was here to save me and help me… like he always did whenever things got too bad.

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Comments
  1. Zack says:

    wow…. heavy stuff here. but good-heavy. disturbed me enuff that i had a tuff go reading it thru to the end but glad i did. has same vibe as “push”.

    nice work tho.

  2. Stephen Noah says:

    well done….. but I need more…….I need my fix……feed me or at least let be buy it

  3. Shasta Shelly says:

    So OK — read your other chapters but was too lazy to leave a comment. I have this writer friend who explained how this’ll help you. So here’s my comment finally — figured I should do it becuase I like reading your stuff.

    Good spider allusion — liked how you carried it through the chapter. Nice line: “She doesn’t like sweat. She says it’s filthy.” Delivers strong visual of mother’s high strungness (is that a word????)

    Really want to see more. Hope some publisher finally gives you a break.

  4. Christine says:

    Good writing, but I’m wanting chicky to hit back, ferchrissakes. Bite her mom’s ankles! Anyway, I admire very much that you have written a book and I hope someone has the foresight to pick it up.

  5. Davis R. says:

    Jesus, been in that fucking kitchen myself. Not a pretty scene but you nailed it.
    Tough read though. Brought back mucho crap I didn’t especially want to revisit.

  6. Debbie Bryer says:

    yeah… tough to read… scary, felt it… want to read more, though… xo

  7. Sarah Coombes says:

    Hello – I am a fellow writer who recently finished writing my first novel – although it is quite different from yours! You do rather like to tackle the challenging subject matter, don’t you? Sometimes I found it a little difficult to read but I do rather like writers who can ‘get to my core’ which you have accomplished in spades. Good luck in your publishing endeavors. Wish me luck too!

  8. Manucha Vena says:

    I was so very glad to discover someone was writing about child abuse because it is stories like these that need to be told so people can understand how very important it is for governments to enact stricter legislation about this issue. If persons can come to understand what abused children must endure perhaps they can find it in themselves to sympathize and call their congressman or woman. I am sending your link to others who I know will want to read this. Let us see this marvelous piece published soon.

  9. Andrew says:

    Powerful stuff – and you tell it straight on. Post more!

  10. Emmerson says:

    good stuff… like the rock & roll shit a lot more thou but definately want to read more – post more chpts soon pls

  11. Yaz Yaz says:

    aaack! …. omg. so awful.
    u got 2 love catherine. fightah extrordinare!!!!!!!

  12. Elise Walker says:

    Story very good… want to keep reading. Not autobiographical I hope!
    Will you post more chapters?

  13. May P. says:

    This story intrigues me. Your writing possesses an odd simplicity that draws the reader in and then shakes them, awakes them, and makes them fall in love with Catherine – a beautiful person trapped in a terribly unfortunate position. I think you are a talented writer, GFanthome and I am looking forward to reading your novel when it is published. You have my email address – please keep me posted.

  14. GFanthome says:

    I have to say to everyone who has left a comment on any of my chapters – THANK YOU SO MUCH for your support!! I’ve contacted most of you personally to offer my thanks, but I also wanted to officially put my appreciation out there. You are all amazing people to have taken the time to read my chapters and provide such awesome feedback and overwhelming support. Thanks again!!! 🙂

  15. Anonymous friend says:

    u don’t no me but i follow u on FB. rilly want to read this novel.
    think its rilly good, at least so far.

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